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"[Arms Control Today] has become indispensable! I think it is the combination of the critical period we are in and the quality of the product. I found myself reading the May issue from cover to cover."

– Frank von Hippel
Co-Director of Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University
June 2011
Edition Date: 
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Cover Image: 

Books of Note

The India-Pakistan Military Standoff: Crisis and Escalation in South Asia

Edited by Zachary S. Davis, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, 240 pp.

Zachary S. Davis, a senior fellow at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Center for Global Security Research, has assembled a set of articles examining the 2001-2002 Indian-Pakistani confrontation, an extended sparring match between the two nuclear rivals largely overshadowed in Western media by U.S. operations in Afghanistan. The perspectives presented in this volume include first-hand recollections, a diplomatic reconstruction based on interviews, and analyses of the political implications of the events and the means by which future adventures in brinksmanship can be prevented.

The various authors are in agreement that the standoff came perilously close to erupting into war, whether in the form of a limited clash similar to the 1999 Kargil conflict, a full Indian invasion, or a nuclear exchange. Their accounts stress the danger of escalation in an environment in which conventional and nuclear options were intertwined and poorly conceptualized. Former Indian military officer Gurmeet Kanwal claims most Indian military planners believed and continue to believe that a deep drive into Pakistan would shake its commitment to retaliating with nuclear weapons. As a result, they have continued to support the buildup of Indian conventional capabilities. Feroz Hassan Khan, a Pakistani scholar who served in Kashmir across the Line of Control from Kanwal, maintains that the crisis in fact entrenched support for an ambiguous first-strike policy as insurance against conventional defeat. This contrast informs Davis’ conclusion that it and similar “unlearned” lessons from the crisis leave South Asia in a precarious nuclear balance. —XIAODON LIANG


How We Stopped Loving the Bomb

Douglas Roche, Lorimer, 2011, 208 pp.

For 35 years, Douglas Roche has tackled nuclear proliferation in a variety of roles, including Canadian ambassador for disarmament, chairman of the United Nations Disarmament Committee, and founding president of Parliamentarians for Global Action. This book narrates the highs and lows of his international diplomacy and arms control efforts. Roche’s candor provides insight into behind-the-scene realities. The career diplomat pulls no punches in his observations. He criticizes the five countries that the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) recognizes as nuclear-weapon states—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—for what he sees as their obstruction of nonproliferation efforts. The NPT “is so compromised by forty years of non-action on its key element of comprehensive negotiations for elimination,” writes Roche, “that it cannot achieve a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East.” Roche also weighs in on a number of pressing topics, from International Atomic Energy Agency funding to missile defense. He describes what he argues are the underlying causes of proliferation, such as militarism and poor global economic development. Ultimately, the book is a call to action, warning that a convention banning production and use of nuclear weapons will happen only “once the public rebels against the weapons that would destroy all life.” —FARRAH ZUGHNI

 

U.S. Releases Global Cyberspace Strategy

Timothy Farnsworth

The Obama administration last month released its international strategy for cyberspace, calling on “like-minded states” to come together to establish acceptable rules and norms for responsible state behavior in cyberspace.

At a May 16 press conference announcing the release of the strategy, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan said the report “is the first major policy document issued by this government that articulates U.S. views and policy pursuits regarding the international cyberspace domain.”

The strategy calls for partner states to create rules and norms that support a cyberspace where “fundamental freedoms, privacy, and the free flow of information” are unimpeded. Such ideas have been obstacles in bringing China and Russia to the negotiating table for cyberspace. (See ACT, June 2010.)

The strategy also says that existing norms and international laws governing state conduct in times of peace and conflict should apply to cyberspace. The right to self-defense, found within the UN Charter, “may be triggered by certain aggressive acts in cyberspace,” the report says.

The strategy does not specify the kinds of cyberattacks that would be considered acts of war, but does state that the United States could respond militarily to cyberattacks made against national security assets and interests, including U.S. allies and partners.

 

The Obama administration last month released its international strategy for cyberspace, calling on “like-minded states” to come together to establish acceptable rules and norms for responsible state behavior in cyberspace.

House Takes Up Export Reform Debate

Xiaodon Liang

Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee heard testimony May 12 on the Obama administration’s export control reform initiative, praising and criticizing different aspects of the process. Committee Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), speaking about a planned new single licensing agency, said she was not convinced “the creation of a costly and perhaps unaccountable new federal bureaucracy” was necessary but was sympathetic to President Barack Obama’s goal of boosting exports through streamlining of regulatory requirements. According to the administration, the proposed reform intends to create four “singularities”: a single licensing agency, a single list of controlled items, a single online license management system, and a single enforcement agency. (See ACT, October 2010.)

Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the panel’s ranking member, introduced legislation May 26 to replace the lapsed Export Administration Act (EAA), which serves as the basis for the Department of Commerce’s controls on dual-use items. (See ACT, May 2010.) The EAA expired in 2001, but has been preserved through the declaration of an economic state of emergency in annual executive orders.

At the hearing, Berman asked if the centralization of licensing powers would negate checks and balances built into the current, multidepartment licensing process. In his testimony, Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy James Miller said he expected that each department would continue to bring different concerns to the process but that intense scrutiny would be focused on a smaller number of “particularly challenging” cases.

Miller also said U.S. policy on arms sales to the Middle East will be reassessed on a “country-by-country” basis. Some transfers already have been frozen, he said, declining to provide details at an open hearing.

 

Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee heard testimony May 12 on the Obama administration’s export control reform initiative, praising and criticizing different aspects of the process.

Foreign Ministers Call for Disarmament

Robert Golan-Vilella

The foreign ministers of 10 countries called for the world to speed up its progress in eliminating nuclear weapons and made a series of proposals toward that end in an April 30 joint statement in Berlin.

The 10 countries—Australia, Canada, Chile, Germany, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates—said in their statement that they “consider it urgent to reduce nuclear risks and achieve tangible progress on the path towards a world free of nuclear weapons.” The statement by the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative, as the group is called, is its second; the first came last September on the sidelines of a meeting of the UN General Assembly.

In Berlin, the ministers said that if the Conference on Disarmament (CD) is unable to begin negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) in its 2011 session, they will ask the General Assembly “to address the issue and consider ways to proceed with the aim of beginning negotiations.” The 65-nation CD operates by consensus. Since it agreed in May 2009 to a work plan that included negotiating an FMCT, objections from Pakistan have blocked the start of negotiations.

On the subject of transparency, the foreign ministers announced that they were “developing a draft of a standard reporting form” that nuclear-weapon states could use to disclose information on the status of their nuclear stockpiles. The ministers invited the nuclear-weapon states to examine this proposal in June, when those countries are scheduled to meet in Paris to discuss nuclear transparency and ways to verify additional arms reductions. (See ACT, March 2011.)

 

The foreign ministers of 10 countries called for the world to speed up its progress in eliminating nuclear weapons and made a series of proposals toward that end in an April 30 joint statement in Berlin.

Administration Gearing Up for CTBT Push

Daryl G. Kimball

The Obama administration is preparing to kick off a public education campaign to generate support in the Senate for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher said May 10.

Speaking at the Arms Control Association’s annual meeting in Washington, Tauscher said the focus of the campaign, which will be aimed at the public as well as senators, “is to get the facts out.”

The United States has no need to conduct nuclear tests, in part because the Department of Energy’s Stockpile Stewardship Program “go[es] a step beyond explosive testing by enabling the [U.S. national laboratories] to anticipate problems in advance and reduce their potential impact on our arsenal, something that nuclear testing could not do,” she said. The CTBT’s entry into force “will obligate other states not to test and provide a disincentive for states to conduct such tests,” she said. Also, she argued, the United States has increased its ability “to catch those who cheat.”

When the CTBT last came up for a vote, in 1999, it drew the support of 48 senators, well short of the two-thirds majority needed for approval of a treaty. The debate leading up to that vote was “too short and too politicized,” Tauscher said. Vowing not to “repeat [the] mistakes” of 1999, Tauscher said, “[W]e will make a more forceful case when we are certain the facts have been carefully examined and reviewed in a thoughtful process.”

Tauscher said she “cannot predict” when the vote will take place. Two senators who spoke at the May 10 meeting and are members of the Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), said they did not expect it before the 2012 presidential elections. Casey said it “obviously [would] be preferable” to act before then, but said, “I don’t have a high degree of confidence that we will.”

 

The Obama administration is preparing to kick off a public education campaign to generate support in the Senate for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher said May 10.

UK Takes Initial Steps to Replace Trident

Robert Golan-Vilella

The United Kingdom has approved the preliminary investment in its next generation of Trident nuclear submarines and selected a design for the submarines, British Defence Secretary Liam Fox told the House of Commons last month.

This “initial gate” investment represents the first of two decisions that must be made for the replacement to go forward. The second (“main gate”) decision to begin constructing the submarines is scheduled for 2016, as the British government outlined in its strategic defense review last October. (See ACT, November 2010.)

In a May 18 speech, Fox said the new fleet of submarines “will be powered by a new generation of nuclear propulsion system,” which “will allow our submarines to deliver our nuclear deterrent capability well into the 2060s if required.” The government also agreed on the outline of the submarine’s design and the amount of material and parts that will need to be purchased prior to the main gate decision, he added.

Fox explained the United Kingdom’s continued need for a nuclear capability by saying that “we cannot dismiss the possibility that a major direct nuclear threat to the U.K. might re-emerge.” In remarks to the House of Commons that same day, British Prime Minister David Cameron called London’s nuclear weapons “the ultimate insurance policy against blackmail or attack by other countries.” The United Kingdom’s entire nuclear arsenal of fewer than 160 operational nuclear warheads is deployed aboard four submarines armed with Trident ballistic missiles; this number is slated to fall to no more than 120 by the mid-2020s.

In advance of the main gate decision, the government will conduct a review of “the costs, feasibility, and credibility of alternative systems and postures” to the proposed replacement plan, Fox said. The review is to be led by Nick Harvey, the minister of state for the armed forces and a member of the Liberal Democrats.

The Liberal Democrats, the Conservative Party’s partners in the coalition government that assumed power last year, generally oppose the current plan and favor greater steps toward nuclear disarmament. In contrast to the current plan of maintaining “continuous at-sea deterrence” based on submarine-launched ballistic missiles, the review will consider options such as putting nuclear warheads on cruise missiles, Harvey told the Financial Times May 24. This would be cheaper and could provide a future government with more flexibility, Harvey said.

Fox estimated the cost of the submarine replacement to be 20-25 billion pounds ($33-41 billion), of which approximately 3 billion pounds is scheduled to be spent before 2016.

 

The United Kingdom approved the initial investment in its next generation of nuclear submarines and chose a design for the new fleet.

Australian Cluster Bill Called Weak

Farrah Zughni

Legislation in the Australian Senate to approve the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), the most comprehensive international treaty on cluster bombs, is drawing criticism from political leaders and nongovernmental organizations for falling short of the treaty’s requirements.

The bill approaching Senate debate comes on the heels of a May 2 article in the Australian newspaper The Age citing WikiLeaks cables documenting how Australian officials secretly worked with the United States and other countries to weaken the CCM during its negotiations in 2008.

The Australian bill, which passed the country’s House of Representatives in November, prohibits the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of cluster munitions. “It will add to Australia’s strong legal framework against weapons that cause indiscriminate harm,” Australian Attorney General Robert McClelland said in a March 28 press release.

However, a number of organizations, including Human Rights Watch, the International Human Rights Clinic of Harvard Law School, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, have submitted proposed amendments to the bill, which, they argue, does not uphold the spirit or the letter of the CCM. They criticize the extent to which Australia can engage in joint military operations and exercises with nonparties when such activities involve the stockpiling, storage, transfer, or use of cluster munitions. For example, under the legislation, military personnel of nonparties may stockpile and move cluster munitions on Australian territory.

“If passed, Australia’s legislation would be the weakest national legislation on cluster munitions to date,” Human Rights Watch senior researcher Bonnie Docherty said in a May 18 e-mail to Arms Control Today. Docherty, who is also a lecturer at HarvardLawSchool’s International Human Rights Clinic, testified March 3 at a hearing of the Senate Standing Commitee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade.

In her e-mail, she said the United Kingdom’s ratification legislation “has related provisions but includes some precautions.” Other countries, such as New Zealand and Norway, “make allowances for joint operations, but do not excuse assistance with [cluster munitions] use during such operations,” she said.

Earl Turcotte, the former senior coordinator for mine action at the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, issued a March 30 statement on the Australian prohibition bill, which, he argues, does not meet the convention’s requirements. Turcotte, who resigned in March to protest his country’s handling of its own cluster munitions ratification bill, led the Canadian delegation throughout the negotiation of the CCM.

The CCM language addressing military operations is in Article 21, known as the “interoperability” clause. The article explicitly states that parties “may engage in military cooperation and operations with States not party to this Convention that might engage in activities prohibited to a State Party.” During the treaty negotiation process, many U.S. allies pushed for this provision because Washington had made clear it would not support the emerging accord. (See ACT, July/August 2008.)

Such cooperation is restricted, although to what extent is heavily debated. According to Turcotte, states-parties may not, among other things, allow nonparty states to stockpile cluster munitions on their territory; invest in companies that develop, produce, transfer, or use cluster munitions; or “authorize or order, directly or indirectly, the use of cluster munitions by non-party state forces,” Turcotte said in his March 30 statement.

“We did not envision that this Article might be interpreted, rather misinterpreted, such that States Parties could deliberately and significantly aid and abet the use of these indiscriminate weapons,” he said.

In anticipation of Australian ratification of the CCM, Australia’s Future Fund, established in 2006 to cover pensions of Australia’s public servants, disinvested from 10 companies involved in production or sales of cluster munitions, including Lockheed Martin Corp. and General Dynamics Corp., according to a May 3 article in Bloomberg News. The $81.7 billion fund is independent of the Australian government.

The Future Fund board of guardians “will not invest in economic activities that are illegal in Australia or contravene conventions,” Will Hetherton, a fund spokesman told Bloomberg News.

Although advocates for a stronger cluster bill hailed the fund’s disinvestment, many say that the legislation’s language does not require disinvestment and that such an omission runs contrary to the CCM. (See ACT, December 2009.)

The proposed legislation is set to be debated in the Senate just weeks after The Age reported on WikiLeaks cables revealing that Australian officials told their U.S. counterparts in 2007 that the country would withdraw from negotiations on the CCM “unless a loophole was added to allow signatories to the convention to cooperate with military forces still using cluster bombs,” as the paper put it. The successful effort to do that produced the language at the center of the current dispute over the Australian bill.

The Age also reported that the WikiLeaks cables show that Australia covertly appealed to a number of Asian and African countries in an effort to win additional votes on several “hard-line” issues, including the military cooperation stipulation.

In a May 12 statement before the Senate, Sen. Scott Ludlam referred to the incident exposed in The Age as “an extraordinarily ugly episode in modern Australian history” and said the country’s cluster munitions bill was an “expression of those behind-the-scenes negotiations where Australia was effectively doing the dirty work” of the United States.

“The bill that the Senate will soon be debating allows the stockpiling and transfer of cluster bombs. It permits our forces to violate the spirit and intent of the treaty if the act involving cluster bombs is carried out in the course of a joint exercise with a non-party to the treaty,” Ludlam said.

Attempts to contact Australian officials on the matter were unsuccessful.

 

The Australian Senate’s decision on legislation for ratification of the Convention on Cluster Munitions is expected soon. Nongovernmental organizations say the bill falls short of the treaty’s requirements.

Iran’s First Power Reactor Goes Critical

Peter Crail

After decades of setbacks, Iran’s first nuclear power reactor started operations May 8, according to Atomstroyexport, the Russian state company responsible for the construction and initial operations of the reactor. In a May 10 statement, the firm said that the reactor, located near the coastal city of Bushehr, achieved “the minimum controlled power level” and its first sustained chained reaction two days earlier.

Russian and Iranian officials said in May that it will take weeks for the reactor to reach full power and start generating electricity.

The reactor has undergone a long and complicated construction history with perennial delays. Germany’s Kraftwerk Union began construction of two reactors at Bushehr in 1975 under a commission by the shah, but the project was discontinued following the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

Moscow agreed to take over construction of the first reactor in 1992 with work beginning three years later. Completion of the project has stalled several times since the initial deadline in July 1999.

In public statements, Russian officials have cited technical and financial reasons for the setbacks, but diplomats familiar with the process have said that Moscow also held up construction to place political pressure on Iran over its nuclear program.

The latest delay occurred in February when one of the reactor’s cooling pumps was found damaged, leading to a last-minute unloading of the fuel. (See ACT, April 2011.)

The technical hurdle occurred just weeks before a series of natural disasters crippled a Japanese nuclear power plant and spread radiation from the reactors, raising broader fears about the safety of nuclear reactors, including the Bushehr plant.

Florence Mangin, the French permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), raised such concerns May 5, citing Iran’s unwillingness to join a key international accord on nuclear safety. Azerbaijan’s Trend news agency quoted Mangin as stating that her concerns about Bushehr were not based on the reactor design, but were “a matter of global safety environment, regulatory infrastructure and safety culture.” The French embassy in Washington did not respond to requests for confirmation of and elaboration on Mangin’s reported remarks.

Iran is the only country in the world ready to start a [nuclear power plant] without being a contracting party to the [Convention on Nuclear Safety],” she added.

Iranian officials have defended the safety precautions taken regarding the reactor. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told reporters May 17, “Iran’s first priority has always been the safety of the power plant.”

The startup of the reactor also may carry implications for the prospects of military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Proponents of military strikes against Iran, such as former U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations John Bolton, have warned that waiting until the reactor goes critical carried the risk of spreading radioactive material in the region.

“Once the rods are in the reactor, an attack on the reactor risks spreading radiation in the air, and perhaps into the water of the Persian Gulf,” Bolton told the Fox News Network Aug. 13. He said that Israel should have attacked the reactor by the end of last August, before it was fueled.

Although Bolton expressed concern that Iran might use the reactor to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons, Washington has maintained for years that the Bushehr reactor is not a serious nonproliferation threat. In 2005 the United States dropped its initial opposition to Russia’s construction of the reactor after Moscow secured an agreement from Tehran to return the reactor’s spent fuel to Russia. (See ACT, April 2010.) That agreement is intended to prevent Iran from reprocessing the spent fuel to extract plutonium for weapons.

Under normal operations, light-water reactors such as the Bushehr unit do not produce plutonium of a quality appropriate for nuclear weapons. The reactor operations can be adjusted to produce better-quality plutonium, but such activities would be detectable by IAEA inspectors because they would entail shutting down the reactor very early in its operating cycle.

The Bushehr plant is the first nuclear power reactor in the Middle East. Several countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, recently have signaled plans to build their own power reactors in the coming years.

 

After decades of delays, Iran’s first nuclear power reactor, built by Russian state company Atomstroyexport, began operations May 8. Spent fuel from the reactor is to be sent to Russia.

Sanctions Seen Slowing Iran Nuclear Work

Peter Crail

International sanctions are limiting Iran’s ability to acquire items for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, a UN report evaluating sanctions against Iran said.

The report, a copy of which was obtained by Arms Control Today, adds that “sanctions are slowing Iran’s nuclear programme but not yet having an impact on the decision calculus of its leadership with respect to halting enrichment and heavy water-related activities.” Uranium enrichment and the use of heavy-water reactors are steps that can be used to produce material for nuclear weapons.

The report says that Iran also has continued to violate sanctions by illegally importing and exporting restricted goods, technology, and weapons.

The report was written by a panel of experts formed last November to assess the implementation of four rounds of UN Security Council sanctions against Iran. According to the report, it is difficult to assess the impact of the UN sanctions in isolation, given the imposition of “stronger and more comprehensive” sanctions in place by a number of individual countries and the European Union. The eight-person UN panel made 30 recommendations to the council for strengthening the implementation of the sanctions, including extending penalties to an additional three Iranian individuals and three Iranian entities involved in violating UN prohibitions.

Russia has blocked the public release of the report, issuing complaints about some of its conclusions and recommendations. “We believe that it is a loose and sloppy piece of work, and we believe that there are some recommendations which our experts do not agree with at all,” Russian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin told reporters May 13.

Iran’s nuclear and missile programs have been vulnerable to sanctions because they still rely on foreign suppliers for key goods Iran finds difficult to produce indigenously, according to the UN report.

Such goods include a list of 10 “choke point items” critical for Iran’s uranium-enrichment program, which lies at the center of concerns over its nuclear aspirations. The report notes, however, that some of these items do not fall under international controls. Some of the items are relevant to Iran’s development of more-advanced centrifuges, which would allow Iran to enrich uranium at far greater speeds than it currently can, once such machines are developed and installed. U.S. officials have said that Iran has faced difficulties importing some of these items, such as carbon fiber, for the new machines. (See ACT, April 2011.)

The sanctions also may be slowing Iran’s ability to acquire high-quality goods necessary for its ballistic missile program, the UN report said, particularly in the area of developing and manufacturing solid-fuel missile systems such as the 2,000 kilometer-range Sajjil-2.

According to the report, Iran can produce solid-fuel propellant indigenously, but still relies on foreign suppliers for key materials, such as aluminium powder. The report details a case in which a shipment of aluminium powder bound for Iran, enough for 100 metric tons of rocket propellant, was intercepted by Singaporean authorities last September.

Michael Elleman, a senior fellow with the International Institute for Strategic Studies and former missile expert with the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission in Iraq, said in a May 24 e-mail that “forcing Iran to change suppliers frequently will stress their quality control system, and ultimately the reliability of its solid propellant rockets and missiles.”

Although “supplier disruptions will only modestly impact the production and reliability of their smaller rockets,” he said, “Iranian engineers will be greatly challenged attempting to continue development of the much larger Sajjil-2 because the bigger the solid rocket motor, the more susceptible it is to changes in the starting ingredients.”

Financial Sanctions

UN efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring such items are not limited to denying their export to Iran. According to the UN report, financial sanctions targeting Iranian personnel and firms involved in Iran’s nuclear and missile programs also limit Iran’s ability to purchase sensitive goods.

“Iranian individuals and entities find themselves increasingly cut-off from international financial markets, making it increasingly difficult to find ways to pay in U.S. dollars or euros for the equipment” needed for their prohibited programs, the report said.

The Security Council has imposed financial restrictions on a total of 41 Iranian individuals and 75 Iranian entities determined to be involved in Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. Other countries, including the United States and the 27 members of the European Union, have imposed financial sanctions on additional persons and firms inside and outside Iran.

The UN report notes that the impact that sanctions have had in slowing Iran’s illicit programs has been due in part to states taking greater steps to implement them by “strengthening [national] export controls” and “exercising vigilance through their financial and regulatory bodies, port and customs authorities.”

Because of these efforts, the report concludes, Iran has been compelled to seek items “that fall below controlled thresholds” in order to evade sanctions. These goods do not fall under international restrictions because they are not of sufficient quality or built to the parameters directly relevant for Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, but still can aid Iran in producing controlled items indigenously.

In addition to seeking such items, Iran has employed a number of methods to circumvent sanctions to obtain high-quality goods and technology from major suppliers, the report said. These methods include establishing front companies, concealing items during shipping, reflagging shipping vessels, and masking financial transactions. Several of the panel’s recommendations are aimed at strengthening controls over sensitive goods and technology and bolstering financial regulatory systems in order to combat Iran’s sanctions evasion techniques.

Continuing Arms Smuggling

In addition to evading sanctions against its procurement of goods for its nuclear and missile programs, Iran has been transferring arms abroad although a 2007 Security Council resolution bars Tehran from selling conventional arms and prohibits any country from importing arms from Iran.

The report cites nine incidents since 2007 reported by various countries involving the illicit transfer of conventional arms by Iran. Syria was the reported destination of illicit arms for six of those incidents. “Syria’s apparent role in illegal arms transfers by Iran is a serious violation of its Security Council obligations,” the report said.

Additional reported destinations included Afghanistan, Egypt, and Gambia. Investigation by the panel uncovered no evidence of payment by recipients for the arms shipments, leading to the panel’s conclusion that the arms transfers were not intended to generate revenue. Instead, the panel concludes that through its conventional arms trafficking, Iran’s aim appears to be “increasing its influence in developing regions such as Africa, Asia, and Latin America.”

Congress Eyes More Sanctions

As the UN weighs the impact of international sanctions against Iran, legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in May to expand U.S. unilateral sanctions aimed at Iran’s energy partners.

The House bill, introduced May 16 and sponsored by Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), limits the presidential authority to waive certain sanctions and imposes additional penalties on firms and individuals doing business with Iran’s energy sector, using methods that include denying U.S. entry visas. Ros-Lehtinen said in a May 16 press statement that the new sanctions sought “to close loopholes in current sanctions legislation which have allowed the administration to avoid imposing the full range of available U.S. sanctions against the Iranian regime.”

A Senate bill introduced May 23 is aimed at forcing the administration to impose such energy-related sanctions as well, but it also targets foreign firms doing business with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which increasingly has been engaged in all levels of the Iranian economy.

The 1996 Iran Sanctions Act first targeted firms investing in Iran’s energy sector, but successive administrations have argued that imposing sanctions on U.S. allies and other diplomatic partners would undermine international efforts to address Iran’s proliferation. Sanctions were imposed under the 1996 law for the first time last September, after the law was significantly expanded in June 2010 to include firms selling refined petroleum products to Iran. (See ACT, July/August 2010.)

The Obama administration on May 23 increased the number of firms penalized under the sanctions, targeting an additional seven firms in locations including Israel, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela, all of which provided Iran with refined petroleum. Penalties against the seven firms varied.

The same day, the administration imposed nonproliferation-related sanctions on 14 firms and two individuals for contributing to Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.

Administration officials have pointed out that sanctions do not need to be levied against firms in order to be effective. According to the transcript of a May 24 background briefing by senior administration officials, since last June several major energy firms have stopped doing business with Iran, including providing Iran with refined petroleum and refueling Iran Air flights.

The EU significantly expanded its own sanctions against Iran on May 23, targeting 100 individuals and firms with links to Iran’s proscribed programs. The targeted entities include the European-Iranian Trade Bank, which a senior U.S. official described during the May 24 briefing as “a major Iranian bank that provided access to Iran to European financial markets.”

 

A yet-to-be-released UN report says that international sanctions are hindering Iran’s efforts to import goods for its nuclear and missile programs. But the report cautions that Iran is continuing its efforts to evade sanctions.

Obama Submits NWFZ Protocols to Senate

Alfred Nurja

President Barack Obama on May 3 transmitted to the Senate the protocols to the Pelindaba and Rarotonga nuclear-weapon-free-zone (NWFZ) treaties, the regional pacts that ban testing, acquisition, and development of nuclear weapons in Africa and the South Pacific.

Once ratified, the protocols “will extend the policy of the United States not to use or threaten use of nuclear weapons against regional zone parties” that are members of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and are “in good standing with their non-proliferation obligations,” a White House press release said.

In his transmittal letter, Obama said the protocols’ entry into force would require “no changes in U.S. law, policy or practice.”

However, the submittal drew criticism from Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.). “I am deeply troubled that President Obama is attempting to codify by international agreement his flawed nuclear weapons declaratory policy, which would limit the instances in which the President would use nuclear weapons to defend the United States and its allies from attack,” Kyl said in a May 5 press release.

He was referring to the administration’s April 2010 “Nuclear Posture Review [NPR] Report,” which stated that the United States “will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the NPT and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations.”

The NPR report revised a previous policy under which the United States had said that it reserved the right to use nuclear weapons in response to an attack using biological and chemical weapons, even if the attack came from a non-nuclear-weapon state. Advances in U.S. military capabilities allow the United States to forgo the option of a nuclear response in such situations, the NPR found.

In a May 18 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation Susan Burk said ratification of the protocols “will not disturb existing security arrangements or impinge upon U.S. military operations, installations, or activities. The Department of Defense, including the Joint Staff, was fully engaged throughout our review process and agrees with these conclusions.”

NWFZ treaties provide for protocols to be signed by the countries that the NPT recognizes as nuclear-weapon states: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Under these instruments, the nuclear-weapon states assume legal obligations not to use nuclear weapons against members of the zone, conduct nuclear tests in the treaty’s zone of application, or take any other action that violates its terms. The United States is the only country out of the five that has yet to ratify the protocols to the two treaties.

Russia had delayed ratification of the protocols to the Pelindaba treaty as it sought clarification as to whether the treaty applied to the island of Diego Garcia, a British possession that Mauritius, a party to the treaty, claims. The United States, which operates a major military base in Diego Garcia, recognizes British sovereignty over the island.

“Diego Garcia is not part of the ‘territory’ of the zone as defined by the Treaty,” said an article-by-article overview of the treaty prepared by the U.S. Department of State. Russia ratified the Pelindaba treaty protocols in March 2011 with a reservation that its obligations would not apply to Diego Garcia.

Kyl’s statement also criticized Obama for seeking ratification of two treaties that do not “address the illegal nuclear weapons program of Iran and North Korea” and urged the Senate not to consider the protocols “until the President shows he is serious about stopping” those programs. “[B]eyond the implications of these two treaties, this latest action is more proof that the President’s nuclear policy priorities are deeply flawed,” Kyl said.

Asked to comment on that point, Burk said, “We agree that addressing the threats posed by the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea [is a] fundamental nonproliferation priorit[y]. The comprehensive set of policies this Administration has adopted over the past two years with respect to Iran and North Korea, especially expanding pressure through strengthened multilateral sanctions, should leave no doubt as to the seriousness of our commitment.”

Burk added, “But our nonproliferation work does not stop there. Rather it requires that we build greater political support for efforts to strengthen the nonproliferation regime.”

Both treaties allow parties to decide for themselves whether to allow nuclear-armed ships and aircraft to visit or transit their territory. The treaties “explicitly uphold the freedom of the seas, and do not affect rights to passage, guaranteed by international law, through territorial waters,” the State Department overview said.

Under President Bill Clinton, the United States signed the protocols to the Pelindaba and Rarotonga treaties in 1996, but the protocols had never been submitted to the Senate. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced at the 2010 NPT Review Conference that the Obama administration would submit the protocols for Senate approval. The protocols are considered treaties and therefore would need a two-thirds Senate majority in support of ratification.

The Obama administration “looks forward to consulting with the Senate to decide the timing of consideration” of the protocols, Burk said in the e-mail.

The Rarotonga treaty, which covers Australia, New Zealand, and other, smaller South Pacific island-states, entered into force in December 1986. Under a separate protocol to this treaty, submitted along with the others to the Senate, the United States is to refrain from stationing or testing nuclear weapons in the U.S. territories of American Samoa and JarvisIsland.

The Pelindaba treaty, which encompasses all African Union states plus Morocco, entered into force in July 2009. (See ACT, September 2009.) Twenty-two signatories have yet to ratify the treaty with some African members of the Arab League, including Egypt, linking ratification with progress toward the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.

 

The Obama administration sent the Senate the protocols to two nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties, prompting objections from Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.).

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